Using Health Tech To Break Down Inequalities In Healthcare

Dinesh Kandanchatha | July 6, 2021 | 3 Min Read

Digital transformation continues to shape the healthcare industry. Let’s take a look at how technology-enabled healthcare has the power to address inequality in the healthcare space.

This rise of telehealth has made healthcare more accessible. Yet, even though we’ve seen advances in health tech, we continue to see disparity in access to viable healthcare.

This disparity is built along racial, socioeconomic, and geographical lines. In the U.S., for example, patients from low-income communities, the chronically ill, and older Americans are often overlooked.

Meanwhile, racialized communities continue to face dire consequences from this inequality in healthcare. A study looking at rates of hospitalization among COVID-19 patients noted that Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities are being hospitalized at a much higher rate than white Americans.

The study, which looked at 12 states amid this pandemic, found that people of color account for 14 percent of the population in Michigan, but made up 40 percent of COVID-19-related deaths.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., individuals with disabilities continue to face hurdles in accessing healthcare, particularly women with disabilities. Often, these hurdles look like long waiting lists, distance, and transport issues.

While unconscious bias plays a major role in perpetuating healthcare disparities, there is hope that health tech can help break down some of these inequities, or at the very least, bring them to light.

 

Creating Equity Through Technology

In British Columbia, Indigenous patients can now report experiences of racism in the province’s healthcare system through a new online tool.

It’s called Safespace, and it allows Indigenous patients to share their experiences of discrimination in any healthcare facility without fear of retaliation. Dr. Alika Lafontaine created the app. Lafontaine, who is an Alberta-based anesthesiologist of Anishinaabe, Cree, Metis and Pacific Islander descent, developed the app based on experiences of racism both he and other Indigenous doctors faced in the healthcare space.

The app also came about after a province-led investigation found that 84 percent of Indigenous patients reported discrimination in the B.C. healthcare system.

Using Health Tech to Break Down Inequalities in Healthcare

Tackling Industry Pain Points

Entrepreneurs like Gil Addo are also using health tech to solve inequity in healthcare. Addo is the co-founder of RubiconMD, an online platform that aims to make healthcare more accessible to underserved communities. The goal is to bridge the disparity gap in healthcare through the power of telehealth.

The idea came about after Addo’s grandmother was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“I had a grandmother who had to travel thousands of miles to Boston for treatment of a brain tumor, and then back and forth for all the follow-up. Why couldn’t her local provider oversee her care with appropriate support? There had to be a better way,” Addo writes on the company website.

Through the power of telehealth, RubiconMD brings healthcare providers to the primary care setting “so that all patients can access the care they need, regardless of socioeconomic barriers,” Addo says.

 

Staying Connected

Telehealth can create convenience for those who don’t have access to transport, or due to a disability cannot leave their homes.

Telehealth is predicated on making healthcare more accessible. New technologies can improve the health of underrepresented demographics by bringing clinicians directly into these communities—virtually.

When it comes to alleviating inequity in healthcare, however, we have a long way to go. Nevertheless, technology has the power to play a pivotal role in making healthcare more equitable.

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